November 2, 2015: Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand — After a couple of days in the lowlands of central Thailand, Par, Tui, Nang and I spent today in the relatively cool, green, and lush mountains near the western Myanmar border. It was a welcome reprieve from heat and humidity (Bangkok supposedly has the hottest mean annual temperature of any large city in the world) and, as soon as we hit the mountains this morning, I started racking up new birds.
Kaeng Krachan National Park is a popular winter tourist destination but the hordes haven’t arrived here yet. The park shuts down during the wet season in September and October and only just opened yesterday - a lucky stroke of timing! We had the place almost to ourselves all day long.
Even a couple thousand feet above sea level, the forest in these mountains feels tropical and untamed, thick with vines, palms, weird fruiting trees, and dark streams. This jungle sprawls across the border into Myanmar and, at certain points today, we could see distant hills in that country. “The border is only a few kilometers away,” said Par, “but it takes army patrols six days to hike there. Ten days for a normal person.”
We spent the day hopping from flock to flock along a gravel road in the forest, picking up new birds in every sizable group: Rufous-bellied Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow broadbills, and a flock of Collared Babblers were interspersed with lucky sightings of a Gray Peacock-Pheasant and Maroon-breasted Philentoma.
Accommodations in the park are suitably rugged and we are camped out in tents tonight, though “glamped out” might be a more accurate term. The tents are pitched on a swept concrete floor with a roof, bathrooms, a shower, and a restaurant next door; and, even better, a White-fronted Scops-Owl called a few times from the edge of the campground! The rest of the universe seems far away in this corner of the world.
New birds today: 31
Year list: 5099